Chapter 7

Once you are back after the trek, you would like to recoup your energies, and what better way to do so than spending some quiet ‘me’ time with yourself? Spending time with yourself and indulging in things that you enjoy doing is a wonderful way to rest and relax and re-energise yourself. These quiet time activities could be anything from listening to music, to maybe creating your own, reading a book, or maybe writing your own, watching the Greatest Artist at work through your window or maybe making your own piece of great artwork. Spending time with yourself, immersed in a hobby or a a pastime  helps to calm down and  collect yourself, and in a strange way get you ready to face the world once again!


You could ‘just be’! And what does it mean to be ‘just be’?!! It’s another way to relax…by being passive….by not doing but by non-doing, by being in the moment – whatever it might be….be it looking at the stars, listening to the chirping of birds, feeling the oil breeze, or watching the sunset, sitting around a bonfire or smelling the fresh air…relishing each moment as it is, as it was meant to be…..And  one realises in the process, what a luxury it is to catch a few moments with yourself and what great company you are for yourself!  And how enough you are into yourself!! No running, no moving….just being…..

In case you are in the mood for a quiet time activity, how about taking a few minutes to do a bit of origami by yourself here?

Here are a set of simple instructions to make an easy origami Christmas Tree:


Step 1: Start with a 6 inch x 6 inch square origami paper, color side down.

Step 2: Fold along one diagonal axis. Crease well and unfold.

Step 3: Fold both the right and left sides to meet the center crease.

Step 4: Flip paper over.

Step 5: Fold both the top right and left sides to meet the center crease.

Step 6: We now need to make 2 mountain folds as indicated in the picture below. If you’re not familiar with the term mountain fold, it means that you need to fold the paper under (instead of folding the paper up).

Step 7: Fold the top flap down, at approximately where indicated in the photo below.

Step 8: Flip paper over.“Ooijaa!”! The Origami Christmas Tree is complete!

Btw, “Ooijaa” is the Pahadi version of OMG! And is a catchphrase that is an involuntary reflex for most of them.

In case you managed to pick up a pine cone or two from your trek, please feel free to request the manager to lend you some paints and brushes…to colour the pine cone as you please. So what if we cannot take the beautiful smell of the pine trees from here, we sure can take a remembrance of it – can’t we??In case you didn’t, tomorrow is another day! You can do so on your next trek. And if you are at the riverside, and happen to take a walk along the river, pick up a pebble or two that catch your fancy. You could take it back, and paint it along with the date of your stay and possibly use it as a paperweight for your desk when you go back. You could try your hand at a bit of Aipan on the pebble…use only a maroony – terracotta colour and white and make a pattern with lines……and don’t forget the dots!

You know how important they are in this region, don’t you?? FYI, these lines in Aipan which are drawn in the blocks consist of odd numbers like 5, 7, 9 or 11. If you like, you could share pictures of your painted pine cones and pebble art with us and we will be happy to put them up on the special section on the website that is dedicated to seeing the world through the children’s eye….

With all this pebble talk, it would be interesting for you to know about a very unique fair called Bagwal, which is a ceremonial stone fight, that is held in a place called Devidhura, on the day of Rakshabandhan.

Legend has it that every year, a man chosen from one of the four Kham or clans would be offered to please the Goddess Barahi. Once the turn fell upon an old woman who had only one grandson. With a heavy heart she accepted her grandson’s fate. Pleased with her devotion, the Goddess spared the life of her grandson on the condition – that the same amount of blood as that of an average man must be offered to Her. Thus, was born the tradition of Bagwal, where the four clans, divided themselves into two groups and pelted stones and pebbles at each other to offer their blood to the Goddess amongst much fanfare. How dangerous that sounds, doesn’t it? However, it may be noted that there has been no loss of life on account of this event. Each group protects themselves with a wooden shield known as the ‘Farra’. Good to know that in recent years the stone pelting has been replaced by throwing fruits and flowers!

FYI the state flower Uttarakahand is the an unusual one called the ‘Brahma Kamal’. The name translates as ‘The Lotus of Lord Brahma’. You may have observed in the pictorial depictions of Lord Brahma, the Creator of the Cosmos, according to Hindu Mythology, that he holds a certain type of Lotus in his hand – this flower is said to be the Brahma Kamal. It is a long held belief that anybody who sees the blooming of this rare flower is blessed for they will have their wishes fulfilled! This belief perhaps became prevalent since it is not easy to catch it bloom, for it blooms only in the late evening and stays only for a few hours! Magical…..isn’t it?!

Once you are refreshed in the magic of your own company, you will automatically want to step out of your zone and be with others. Just like there are certain activities that are more individual, there are others that are more social – which are fun only with a group of friends…like sports and games… Here in the hills, the children still delight in simple outdoor games with friends, probably the kind that some of your parents and grandparents grew up playing…some of them are….

  • Luka Chipi or Hide and Seek
  • Ankh Michauli or Blind Man’s Bluff
  • Chor Sipahi
  • Pathari Fod or Seven Stone Folk or better known as Piththu
  • Gucchi, ReethaBhainswal, Kanchai-Marble

Have you ever played any of these games ever? If not, it’s better late than never…collect your family and or friends, and give one of these old fashioned games a go…Not only will all of you enjoy the simplicity of these games, but it will give the older generation an opportunity to slip into and relieve some fun moments from their childhood days…since all these are outdoor games, they are best played before nightfall…

At the end of the day, when night overtakes the skies, it would be a great idea to tog up a bit, brave the weather and come out onto the decks to look upwards for the most amazing display of stars and heavenly bodies that you may have seen in a very very long time! In the Metros now, the night sky is almost hidden under a haze of pollution that make stargazing a difficult proposition. It is a wondrous sight to just look up and witness the bejewelled treasures, generously scattered across the darkness….the depth of darkness adding brilliance to their own sparkle. The darker the night, the brighter look the stars…And what better place than this to be a bit star struck! According to ancient texts and local beliefs, Gagar, is the ‘tapasthali’ or place of tapasya or austerities of Gargrishi, the originator of the science of Indian astrology!! Once you absorb this huge coincidence, and are ready for some amateur astronomy, all you’ve got to do is just look upwards….  Some of the stars that form constellations can be easily identified from this deck itself… Including the following:

The Cassioppeia which has a ‘W’ shape formed by 5 bright stars,

The Betelgeuse, pronounced as ‘Beetlejuice’ is classified as a red supergiant and the tenth brightest star in the night sky. As a part of the Orion constellation, Betelguese can be easily located through most of the year because of its reddish glow….

The 3 stars in a line forming the dagger of Orion,

The Pleiades or the Seven Sisters, which form a hazy conglomeration of stars, best viewed indirectly, through corner of the eyes, rather than directly, so on and so forth….

In case you are more interested in this subject, do go up to the office, where astrophotography at its best, done from this very deck itself, has been framed and displayed.  Each fascinating photograph carries with it information on the galaxies and nebulae that have been captured so very patiently through bitterly freezing nights. Btw, the images and the colours that you see in those pictures, especially the Horse head Nebula, cannot be seen though the human eye. This is because of the configuration on the rods and cones in the human eye. And that’s where; the eye of the camera comes to the rescue. It is an experience in itself to see, how painstakingly these photographs are clicked through a camera mounted on a telescope!! In case you are staying in Rooms 5, 7 or 11, instead of counting sheep, you can actually count the stars from the comfort of your warm cosy beds to fall asleep….as all three room have huge skylights in the roofs to allow night sky into your rooms! Quite like a personal planetorium….cool isn’t it?! And as you gaze, it may not be a bad time to contemplate…on a reversal of perspective….

What can be seen when one looks up into the night sky, has been addressed, however, have you ever wondered what is visible when the perspective is reversed….how the earth looks from out there? As one rises above, and looks down, what happens to all the barriers and boundaries that we have drawn – does the earth look like the maps  we have made and take sooo seriously – broken up and fragmented, with the boundaries  and divisions crisscrossing  through its bosom – with lines and demarcations differentiating this state from that and this country from that?  On ground zero, one side of reality is seen, but as one rises, the other side is revealed…….things start looking like One Homogenous Whole…… Can anyone ‘udta’ up there, look down and say for sure that this is Punjab and that is Himachal or that this is India and that Pakistan? Each merges into the other…with all man made distinctions disappearing, it seems as though India is overflowing into Pakistan, Pakistan is overflowing into Afghanistan….so on and so forth…. We are all linked and connected to one another…and are all children of the same Mother Earth….what appears on paper and atlases as a fragmented jigsaw, look whole and healed…a gleaming blue gem in the vastness of space, that we can all proudly call our Home!

When earth is viewed from space, it may or may not come as a surprise to know that one of the most noticeable geographical features of the earth that is visible from space is in fact, the Himalayas! And very easy to pick out, as it is sandwiched between the Tibetan Plateau and the plains of the Indian Subcontinent.

All this the talk of space and the Himalayas and the subcontinent begs for a jog down memory lane to the year 1984, when Squadron Leader Rakesh Sharma, aboard Soyuz T-11 became the first Indian who went in space along 2 other Russian cosmonauts. Spending 8 days in space aboard a space station, he conducted multi-spectral photography of Northern India, in anticipation of the construction of hydroelectric power stations in the Himalayas.

Rakesh Sharma is also remembered for a conversation from space that he had with then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. She asked him, ‘How does India look from Oopar?’ He famous reply, borrowed from Md. Iqbal’s  poem Taranah – i- Hindi, was, ‘ Saare Jahan Se Achcha, – better than the whole world.’ FYI, stanzas, 1, 3, 4 & 6  of this poem became the unofficial national song of India. Set to music by none other than the legendary sitar maestro, Pt. Ravi Shankar, it was adopted as the official quick march of the Indian armed forces. And before you March indoors because of the chill, do check the status of the moon….

If it happens to be a full moon night, do look right up ahead towards the mountains….who knows,  you just might get lucky and catch a glimpse of the silvery peaks against the inky blue skies….and who knows how these poetic settings may spark off a new journey within….maybe these peaks will help you to find your own peaks within as they throw the gauntlet your way, challenging you to their own lofty way of life……best summed up in the masterly lines written by Gulzar Saheb himself…

अच्छे लगते हैं पहाड़ मुझे

चोटियाँ बादलों में उड़ती हैं

पाँव बर्फाब पानी में

कूटते रहते हैं नदियॉं

कितनी संजीदगी से जीते हैं

किस क़दर मुस्तकबिलमिज़ाज हैं ये

अच्छे लगते हैं पहाड़ मुझे

Once you allow these lines settle within….you may want to take one last look at them to wish them night before you move inwards….carrying their benediction as you go in….

Once you are inside, after the deep soulful meeting, and cosily settled, shouldn’t it be time for some fun and frolic? So why not give another indoor game, still very popular here in the hills a go….guess what it is? Antakshari! Much like Atlas, that we are all are familiar with…Antakshari is a very old game, derived from Sanskrit words –’Ant’ means end and ‘Akshar’ means letter. Antakshari is group game. Each contestant begins the first verse of a song (usually A Bollywood one) or poetry that begins with the consonant on which the previous consonant’s song or poetry ends.

Aaah! The deep connection between Poetry and Ramgarh! Worth a mention….do you know who is the only Indian to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature? Ok here’s a hint….a huge one….He is credited with the distinction of having written not one, but two National Anthems!! ‘Jana Gana Mana for us and Aamar Shonar Bangla for our neighbours, Bangaldesh. Yes, it’s none other than Rabindranath Tagore!! Do you know which piece of literature written by the Nobel laureate, earned him this Prize? Ok! So he received this honour for his “Song Offerings” which was his own english translations of 53 poems from his original Bengali work, better known as Geetanjali. And you know what? A part of his work, Geetanjali was written by Rabindranath Tagore, right here in Ramgarh itself!! How deeply affected Rabindranth Tagore was with the serene beauty and the quietude of this area is best summed up in the words of the poet himself, “The hills all around seem to me like an emerald vessel brimming over with peace and sunshine. The solitude is like a flower spreading its petal of beauty and keeping its honey of wisdom at the core or its heart.” What a coincidence that the word ‘solitude’ used by  the great poet himself in the above lines referring to ambience of Ramgarh, should have strangely found its way into ‘Soulitude’!

In case this inspires you enough, and you have the stamina to go with it, you could spend half a day exploring the Tagore Top, where it is believed Radindranath Tagore stayed when he first visited Ramgarh in 1903. Up on a hilltop, more than a century later, are the remains of the house around an old oak tree where the great poet writer lived and a fireplace which may have kindled the spirit of some of Gurudev’s writings. A pilgrimage for the wordsmiths, no less!


Tupur Tapur

They trickle in

To form a stream

Of reverence to Thakur!


Thakur is the original family name of Rabindranath Tagore. And ‘Tupur Tapur’ means ‘pitter-patter’ in Bengali!

On his second visit in 1914, Tagore stayed in a cottage, aptly called the Writer’s Bungalow which is now a Neemrana property.

Atop another small ridge, known as Devithan, in the village of Umagarh at Ramgarh, is the home of the famous Hindi poetess Mahadevi Verma. Known as the aadhunik Meera, Mahadevi Verma, one of the chief exponents of Chhayavad poetry, is also remembered for the treasure trove of pen-portraits she wrote, of people who unknowingly stumbled into her life. She was honoured with several awards including the Gyanpeeth and Sahitya Akademi Awards.

Apart from her illustrious literary career, she was also known for a sense of deep empathy she had for animals and an almost mother like love she felt for them. She was a strong advocate against cruelty towards animals, and wrote a gamut of delightful anecdotes about her pets who unexpectedly came into and then became an integral part of her life. These include her peacock Neelkanth, Gaura, a cow gifted to her by her sister and a rabbit called Durmukh. While writing about Gillu, a squirrel, whose life she saved, she fondly recounts how when she had met with an unfortunate accident, Gillu had sacrificed his fair share of cashew nuts, which she found heaped in a pile on his swing, upon her homecoming. Gillu had earned the special priviledge of being the only animal to have eaten out of her plate!

Each summer she would visit this place along with her family of numerous birds and animals and immerse herself in the two passions that were the life lines of her very existence; literary pursuits and social work. Her home, now converted into a Library, is like a local milestone and worth undertaking a short trek to.

Apart from Gurudev and Mahadevi Verma, this place has inspired many more writers, poets as well…including well known personalities from our very own Bollywood, who have ideated and written parts of their stories and screenplays here! So Bollywood brings us back to our game of Antakshari….& the starting poem for it is as follows

Samy Bitaneke Liye karna hai kuch kam Shuru Karen Antakshari lekar Hari ka nam

The first song or poetry would start by consonant word that starts from ‘M’…

M also stands of Music…which the Kumaonis are very fond of and their very own brand of it is accompanied by local instruments like the murali, bina and hurka. Divergent strains of music from Tibet, Nepal and the Indo-Gangetic plains,  absorbed into the culture of the hills  has combined to give a unique flavour to Kumaoni music. A special note must be made here of an unusual instrument – the masak been or bagpipes, which echo the lingering remnants of colonial power in the valleys.   The themes of the folk songs primarily revolve around festivals, religious traditions, folk stories and the simple life that the Kumaoni people lead living in harmony with nature, in the lap of the mighty Himalayas.

The one folk song, that has to be mentioned in this context is “ bedu pako baramasa” which has attained the status of a pahadi anthem of sorts. If there is anything that can make the kumaonis and garhwalis forget their differences and become one, it is this one song. The chorus of the song is as follows….

बेडु पाको बार मासा, बेडु पाको बार मासा.. नरैण काफल पाको चैता, मेरी छैला बेडु पाको बार मासा, बेडु पाको बार मासा.. नरैण काफल पाको चैता, मेरी छैला

Bedu (passion fruit) ripens round the year, Bedu ripens round the year..O dear, Kafal (berry from Uttarakhand) ripens only during April, my beloved…Bedu ripens round the year, Bedu ripens round the year..O dear, Kafal ripens only during April, my beloved…


Following, the girl asks her beloved to take her to her parental home and reminisces about the visit to the Nanda Devi temple in Nainital, where people offer flowers and leaves. She then goes on to describes the red mud stairs in Almora’s famous Lal bazaar, where everybody else enjoyed ‘paan – supari’, while all she was given the humble ‘bidi. Through the song, she pledges her love for him. So deeply does she claim to love him that she says that if a thorn were to prick her beloved’s foot, she would be able to feel the pain in hers…

With numerous references to things that are part of the pahadi way of life, this song is a great leveller. No true blue pahadi can sit still while this song is playing… for that moment in time, all rivalries are suspended, and they cannot help but sway to the melody and rhythm of this one song, that makes them all One!

This music is of one type that most of us are familiar with, in one way or another….what about the music that is inherent in Nature? To be aware of it, one needs to be in a different space…relaxed, unhurried and un – waiting….before it can dawn on you. It is in these little pauses of life that one will suddenly become conscious of of a different kind of music that will touch your soul…the chirping chidiyas, the rustle of the leaves as a breeze flows past, the gentle murmur of the stream, the plop of the frog jumping into a pond, the pitter patter of raindrops on the tin roofs….the heartbeat of a partner….listen….